Light ’em up

Spa Radiance shows off its renovated reception area (photo: lance skundrich)

In some climes, December holidays are a time for snowmen and snow forts — snow being the operative element. But in San Francisco’s Northside, we’re spared the cold fluffy stuff and instead highlight Christmas and other end-of-year holidays with beautiful light shows on display at homes and businesses. Union Street has been hard at work making plans to take its annual display of lighted buildings to the next level this year. Head over to Union Street on Dec. 7 from 3–7 p.m. for the kickoff of the 23rd Annual Union Street Fantasy of Lights celebration.

In addition to appearances by Santa Claus and his helpful elves, there will be jugglers, ponies gussied up as reindeer, face painters, balloon artists, costumed characters, singers, and other live entertainment.

From 3–5 p.m., you can decorate a cupcake at the Cudworth mansion (2040 Union St.), but you’ll want to be sure to be finished (and have wiped the frosting off your face) by 5:30 when Santa arrives and sits for photos until 7 p.m.

And in classic holiday spirit, Union Street businesses are asking people to join them by bringing donations to their Holiday House (2071 Union St.). Used but good-shape coats for the One Warm Coat program, canned and packaged food for the S.F. Food Bank, and new unwrapped toys for the S.F. Firefighters Toy Program are all sought.

In addition to seasonal specials in the stores and streetwide activities, the Union Street Association is holding its first Ugly/Creative Holiday Sweater Event. They urge you to “wear your craziest, zaniest, or just plain unlikable holiday sweater and see what happens!”

Oh, and did we mention the biggest Christmas gift of all in San Francisco? “Validated parking.”

Hats off to the Union Street Association. At its Holiday House, your family can help the victims of the Philippines’ recent Typhoon Haiyan: Children can place a star on their Wishing Tree when making a donation to the Philippine Typhoon Relief Fund. Every weekend before Christmas, Holiday House will serve free refreshments and hold activities for children from noon until 5 p.m.

Have your children checked out Santa’s bright red North Pole Express Mailbox in front of Jest Jewels on Union Street? Santa gets very busy at this time of year so send your letters now.

Jest Jewels tells us that their Polar Express delivery sleigh will make sure to get all notes to Santa delivered on time.

Spa Radiance is touting its makeover 16 years after arriving in the Marina. “”It was scary, because we had become such a skincare staple in downtown and the Marina was still an up-and-coming neighborhood, but it’s been great,” says Angelina Umansky, Spa Radiance’s co-owner with her mother, Galina Rovner. They tapped Jay Jeffers Design Group to head up a major renovation of its 3,500 square foot Victorian at 3011 Fillmore Street, just steps from Union Street.

“Every year, I travel to France to train with best-in-class estheticians in these beautiful, distinctively classic Parisian buildings that have been quietly coaxed into the 21st century,” adds Umansky. “I loved that they maintained the original, intricate crown molding, but subtly painted over it, creating a seamless look. That’s the kind of soothing space I wanted to replicate for my clients.”

In the early 1970s, the mother-daughter businesswomen immigrated to the United States from Russia, where they had learned natural skin care techniques “under the watchful eyes of Grandmother Rose.” Since opening up their San Francisco business first in downtown in 1976 and then moving it to the Marina in 1997, the company has been able to boast such clients as Michelle Pfeiffer, Rosario Dawson, Mary J. Blige, and Sharon Stone.

As the middle of the month approaches, you’ll probably find work getting a little slacker but your personal schedule getting ever-heavier with all the holiday parties and gift shopping. If you can fit one more item onto your calendar, you might find it’s a nice way to meet people and to lower your blood pressure. You can join the holiday carollers who will be walking up and down Union Street singing holiday tunes. If you’re interested, meet at St. Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church (2325 Union Street, at Steiner) at 1 p.m. on Dec. 21. Carollers will return to St. Mary afterward for refreshments.

Large man in red velvet: “Ho, ho, ho!”

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